Friday, 24 October 2008

The Pakistan Gambit (6): Pakistani Govt defies US

Things are moving quickly in Pakistan. Yesterday, the Guardian reported, the Pakistani parliament overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for dialogue with extremist groups and an end to military action.

The US is unlikely to take this sitting down. There have already been a dozen US missile strikes inside Pakistan since September, and a ground assault, fuelling anti-US sentiment. But the US is clear on what it expects the Pakistani strategy to be. "Pakistan needs to and is attacking insurgents in its northern areas," said Patrick Moon, a deputy US assistant secretary of state. "Sanctuaries for Afghanistan Taliban in Pakistan complicate our security operations. Pakistani Taliban and other extremists such as al-Qaida are posing a threat to the stability of Pakistan."

But where do these Pakistani Taliban come from? Well, under a treaty with the tribes of northern Pakistan, the Pakistan army was not originally allowed to enter the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (a legacy of the British Raj). However - and note the savage irony - this accord broke down in 2004 under US pressure calling for al-Qaida bases to be disrupted. It sparked a tribal insurrection and pushed the locals towards extremism, creating a Pakistani Taliban.

The "Pakistani Taliban and other extremists" which the US is demanding the Pakistani government attacks are a direct result of US policy in Pakistan.

Manuscripts Don't Burn awaits the US response with interest. We would expect some major terrorist atrocity inside Pakistan, or perhaps even an attempt on the government. A military coup looks ever more likely.

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